New York City is famous (perhaps infamous) for its residents' philosophy of minding their own business—dress as a giant chicken, sport a revolutionary haircut…nobody minds. This attitude is great if you're a young person expressing your inner bohemian—but somewhat less great if you're an elderly person or someone with a mental or physical handicap, or a kid with working parents taking care of younger siblings. Who looks out for these folks when there is a fire, power outage or other emergency?
Of course we all want to look out for ourselves and our family, but building managers and staff should have a plan created in advance to manage any emergency situation and include the special needs of certain residents who may need additional assistance. Planning ahead gives you and your residents a better chance for survival in case of disaster.
To determine which residents need special assistance, Matthew Sapolin, executive director of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, suggests soliciting the entire building, not just select residents. "Put it out to your whole population, you never know by just looking at someone if they have a special need and you should never assume," he says. "Let them know you are creating an emergency and evacuation plan."
For example, while some elderly residents can tend to themselves in an emergency, others may need assistance. Robin Fenley, director for the New York City Department for the Aging Alzheimer's and Caregiver Resource Center says that, for example, those with early onset of Alzheimer's disease may need assistance, but it may be a challenge for the manager to find which resident has what condition, so it's important to tread carefully.
"Their hearts are in the right place, but I think if you walk up to someone you think might have dementia and ask them, you might find that most people will resent being asked, and legally it may not be allowed," says Fenley. "Managers should get to know the residents and be friendly with them. The supers will also tell you what they know; they see the residents every day."